REVIEWED: DOWN BY NATE SOUTHARD
DOWN by Nate Southard / Sinister Grin Press (June 2012) / 144 pages / Trade Paperback
I’m writing this review on the afternoon of August 20, the 122nd anniversary of H.P. Lovecraft’s birth. Seems somewhat fitting. There’s definitely a bit of Lovecraft to be found in Nate Southard’s latest novella, Down.
Here’s the gist of it, as culled from the description found on Amazon — In 1992, The Frequency Brothers board a plane following a sold out concert in Austin, Texas. The plan is to fly to New York to shoot their next video. But then their plane goes down. Injured and stranded in a seemingly endless forest, The Frequency Brothers now find themselves fighting for survival. Everywhere they look, they see signs that they are not alone, that something waits in the darkness. They can hear it, and it sounds angry. There’s something else out there, though. Something much worse. And it wants to drag them Down.
What the description doesn’t tell you is that you will fall in love with these characters. Well, some of them anyway. You’ll also have your heartbroken as everything goes south for our intrepid band of plane crash survivors.
Southard doesn’t pull any punches. Each character is well-developed on the page, especially considering it clocks in at under 150 pages. They all have their little defining quirks and that makes them even more real and compelling. Not a minute goes by that you’re not invested in their story and that’s a neat trick in such a short work.
Like some kind of perverse cross between LOST and Some Kind of Monster, Down is equal parts horror story and a knowing glimpse inside the group dynamic. And that’s really the tale’s strongest point, the interactions between the various band members, their list-obsessed manager, and the obligatory outsider – a reporter from Rolling Stone.
The final third of the story injects the sense of loss, suspense, and terror that one comes to expect from Southard’s writing, but it’s the two-thirds prior that make it memorable.
There are few complaints to be found inside this quick read. Oh sure, there were a couple of typographical slips, such as Conner becoming Connor here and there. Forgivable. Less so is some of the band jargon tossed about. I get the sense that Nate, for all his worldliness, has never played in a band or spent much quality time around them, but even that is no big deal. I don’t suspect many people would take notice. I’m probably being a dick for even bringing it up.
Suffice to say, Nate Southard’s Down is a smashingly great read. You may come for the monsters, but you’ll stay for the characters.